We had one fewer gift to buy this Mother's Day, one fewer card to send, one fewer phone call to make. A little more than two months ago, my mother-in-law, Marjorie Marugg-Wolfe, Ed. D., died after a two-year battle with breast cancer at the age of 79.
In lieu of that gift, that card, that call, it seems fitting to remember her and, in particular, her decades of dedication to the needs of single parents. She was a remarkable woman. Everyone gets the one-line notice on the Births and Deaths page of the paper, some may get a paid obituary, but there aren't many whose passing rates a news story and an editorial commendation for a "life well spent."
From the Rogers Morning News editorial column, Friday, March 8, 2013:
... the deck is often stacked against single parents and their families. Marjorie Marugg-Wolfe of Rogers began to understand those barriers in the 1970s, first while studying at the University of Arkansas and later through her work as a vocational counselor helping students find ways to pay for higher education.
"There was one group I couldn't help, and it haunted me," Marugg-Wolfe once said of her realization single parents faced tremendous obstacles.
Nobody knew a movement to help single parents was about to be born. Since, that movement has provided nearly 30,000 scholarships valued at nearly $16 million. What happened was a perfect coalescence of a need, an idea of how to address it and the people with passion, energy and drive to make a difference. Marugg-Wolfe was their inspirational leader....
"What Marjorie has been able to do is change the lives, in one generation, of multiple generations," Jim Von Gremp, a board member of the Benton County program, said at a 2012 University of Arkansas event at which Marugg-Wolfe was named a distinguished alumna. "The families study together. The children study because the mother studies. The children see the mother work to achieve, and in one generation, you develop a second set of college graduates."...
Marugg-Wolfe was quick to note she didn't do it all on her own. What he did, however, was nurture an idea into its full realization. Where others might have seen a problem too big to solve, she saw an opportunity to help those she could.
Although she received award after award for her devotion, the real prize for her work live on in the improved circumstances of thousands of single parents who have been, and continue to be, affected, and the future generations whose lives have been forever improved.
We'd call that a life well spent.
Marjorie grew up on a dairy farm on Pleasant Grove Road in the Bellview community southwest of Rogers in Benton County, Arkansas, the sixth of nine children. As a high school senior, Marjorie was society editor for the Rogers Daily News, co-edited the school yearbook, and class valedictorian.
In the middle of her senior year, her mother died of leukemia. At 17, she was the oldest child still at home. She deferred her dreams of college and scholarship offers to serve as homemaker for her bereft father and surrogate mother to her younger siblings. When her father remarried, she went on to college, earning a bachelor's degree from the University of Arkansas.
While in college she met and married Navy veteran Alfred F. Marugg from Texas and the two moved to the Maryland suburbs of Washington, where they raised two daughters. She earned a master's degree from the University of Maryland. When Al retired from civil service, the family moved back near Rogers, to an acreage just a mile from where Marjorie grew up.
With her daughters off to college, Marjorie went back to school, too, to earn an Educational Specialist degree, with a focus on "displaced homemakers," stay-at-home moms who suddenly find themselves divorced or widowed and needing a job.
As coordinator of the Homemakers in Transition Program at Northwest Vo-Tech, Marjorie found that unexpected expenses could deter single parents from pursuing the education they needed in order to escape poverty. A student might have a full-ride scholarship, but that wouldn't cover an expensive car repair.
To meet the need, Marjorie worked with countless generous volunteers and donors to start the Single Parent Scholarship Fund of Benton County in 1984. (Helen Walton was an early and generous supporter.) Marjorie co-founded the Arkansas Single Parent Scholarship Fund, and the program has spread to 70 Arkansas counties.
After her husband Al's death in 1990, Marjorie went back to school once again, earning a doctorate of education at the University of Arkansas in 1993. In 1992, she was remarried to John Wolfe, a high school classmate who had also been recently widowed. They traveled to Europe and the Far East and across America and enjoyed boating on Beaver Lake and Rogers Class of '51 gatherings.
Her advocacy for single parents was recognized by President George W. Bush at the White House in 2002, when she received the President's Community Volunteer Award from the Point of Light Foundation. (The photos above and to the left show her on that occasion.) In 2005, she received the Community Service Award from the Arkansas Department of Human Services and Governor Mike Huckabee.
In 2008, Marjorie became the founding president of ASPIRE (Assisting Single Parents in Realizing Education), a nationwide support network for single parent scholarship programs across the country.
Marjorie (in purple dress, center) with Benton County Single Parent Scholarship Fund students at the 2009 awards banquet.
In 2012, the University of Arkansas College of Education and Health Professions recognized her as Outstanding Alumna in Education.
Marjorie had a deep and abiding faith in Jesus Christ as her Savior, rooted in her upbringing at Little Flock Primitive Baptist Church, where her father led shape-note singing. She was an early and active member of Fellowship Bible Church of Northwest Arkansas, where she served in the women's ministry and helped start the GriefShare program.
Passionate about family history, Marjorie contributed the Grady Ford article in History of Benton County, Arkansas. At reunions, Marjorie was known for gathering everyone around to share family stories with younger generations.
Marjorie loved organizing large gatherings and serving her guests outdoors on her deck. She collected cookbooks and historical books on the daily lives of women. She loved teaching her daughters and grandchildren about nature, visiting the seashore, and watching the colorful visitors to her bird feeders, which she always kept filled.
In recent years, Marjorie became increasingly concerned about the direction of our country and culture, often sending letters to the editor and circulating emails to friends and family to express her views. Last November's election results were deeply disheartening to her. The connection between nutrition and health was another abiding concern of hers.
Marjorie was a devoted wife, sister, aunt, mom, and grandmother, too, concerned about the well-being of her extended family, attending as many of her grandkids' performances as she could and taking pride in their achievements. My daughter spent a cherished week with her grandmother right after Christmas 2011, learning her grandmother's sewing techniques. For many years she sent out a monthly update to the far-flung Ford clan with prayer requests and that month's birthdays and anniversaries.
Here is video of that May 2012 University of Arkansas awards ceremony. Jim von Gremp, a long-time member of the Single Parent Scholarship board, introduces Marjorie Marugg Wolfe, who describes the history and challenges of the single parent scholarship fund. Ralph Nesson, Director of Development at the Arkansas Single Parent Scholarship Fund, who worked with Marjorie from the beginning, concludes the tribute.
KTUL has posted video from Wednesday's League of Women Voters debate between incumbent Mayor Dewey Bartlett Jr, former Councilor Bill Christiansen, and former Mayor Kathy Taylor. It's not all in one piece and their site is a bit difficult to navigate, so here are direct links to each clip. The first five clips were filmed with each candidate individually; the remainder are responses at the debate to questions from the audience:
Tax structure changes
How to attract jobs without an incentive fund
Chloramine in the city water supply
How to attract retail to north Tulsa
Living wage for city employees
How to improve the health of Tulsa residents
KTUL has posted some post-debate analysis on their site. I haven't watched all of the debate yet. I spent Wednesday evening at an awards ceremony where students in Tulsa Bible Church's Awana chapter were honored for achievements in memorizing Scripture. More important in the long run, I think. Something like 17 high school students were honored for completing the entire, rigorous program. Awana is an international organization; TBC has one of the most active chapters in the country.
An email this morning from attorney Kent Morlan, a downtown property owner and resident who represented his fellow property owners in the fight to overturn the misuse of the city's power to impose an assessment to pay for the new downtown ballpark. The politician behind that misuse was then-Mayor Kathy Taylor, who convinced a 5-4 majority of the City Council to go along with her. The assessment is a flat rate based on square footage of land plus square footage of buildings.
For a refresher on the case, the proper use of an assessment district under Oklahoma law, and the manipulations of Kathy Taylor and her wealthy allies, please see
my April 22, 2009, column.
You may also want to read this related story, about the Tulsa Development Authority's mistreatment of Cecilia and Will Wilkins developers who were working with TDA to redevelop a vacant lot. All was going well until the TDA-owned site across the street was chosen for the ballpark; suddenly, according to testimony in the case, Kathy Taylor started working behind the scenes to get the TDA to push the Wilkinses out of the way.
As this March 2009 letter from City finance director Michael Kier states, an assessment is a lien on the property, and if it is not paid within a year, the city is legally required to foreclose.
As you'll read below, there are significant legal issues at stake regarding the power of government to impose what amounts to a tax in all but name, but without the safeguards surrounding the imposition of taxes in Oklahoma.
The State Supreme Court should have taken up the issue; that they were unwilling makes me wonder about political pressures at work behind the scenes. If justice were done and the property owners' complaint were upheld, it would be yet another embarrassment for Kathy Taylor.
Is the ballpark a good thing for downtown? Of course. Is it as good for property a mile away as it is for property across the street? Of course not. Is there any benefit for state- and county-owned properties, who have to pay the assessment as well? No.
Here is Morlan's email:
It is with great regret and disappointment that I have to inform you that by a 5 to 4 vote the Oklahoma Supreme Court has declined to grant the Appellants' Petition for Cert. after the Oklahoma Court of Appeals affirmed the judgment in favor of the City of Tulsa in Cox v. City of Tulsa.
As a result, all of you will directly or indirectly pay a total of $60 million in assessment to the City of Tulsa to pay the principal and interest on revenue bonds issued by the Baseball Stadium Trust to build the ONEOK Stadium located between the Brady District and Greenwood District in the northeast corner of the IDL.
By denying the Appellants' application for cert., the Supreme Court tacitly approved the City of Tulsa forcing approximately 1,400 owners of property located inside the IDL to pay for a general public improvement baseball stadium leased to the Tulsa Drillers for 10% of the annual principal and interest payments due on the bonds.
The Oklahoma Constitution allows municipalities to assess properties benefited by a local public improvement that directly and specially benefits the properties assessed for the cost of the improvements. Whether the City of Tulsa had the power to assess properties located within the IDL to pay for the ball park was a pure issues of law, but a motion for summary judgment on that issues was overruled by Judge Kuehn. She then severely limited the evidence that the sole remaining plaintiff was allowed to introduce in support of its assertion that its vacant lots and warehouse buildings located a mile south of the park did not benefit at all from the presence of the park before entering judgment in favor of the City.
The Court of Appeals, in a tortured opinion that completely ignored the facts and the law affirmed. The only hope was that the Supreme Court would grant certiorari and directly address the significant public policies issues raised by the Plaintiffs, including taking without just compensation of their property and unconstitutionally exempting property owned by religious institutions while assessing non-profits (which the Attorney General's offices opined was unconstitutional). That hope has proven to have been illusory.
Ed Cox, who, along with his wife, owned the Blair Apartment at 7th and Elwood, sought my assistance in 2008 to protect his property from being assessed died during the nearly five year struggle to protect hundreds of Downtown Tulsa property owners from having their property taken without just compensation. Ed died during the struggle. Whoever owns the property will be assessed for the next 25 years. The property has not benefited in any way from the presence of the ball park downtown. The same is true of Mike Samara, who owns a warehouse property located west of the BOK Center. Likewise the Zigler family on south Detroit and Mark Price on south Frankfurt and hundreds of other properties.
I promised Ed that I would prosecute his case free of charge because I did and do believe that assessing his property to build a ball park for the benefit of all of Tulsans was wrong. I fought the best fight that I knew how. I kept the faith with him but the legal fight is over. To say that I am disappointed with the treatment of my clients by the courts of Oklahoma would be an understatement. We had the facts and we had the law and we had what was right and just but we obviously did not have the politics on our side.
Maybe Kathy Taylor, who is again spending millions to be once more the Mayor of the City of Tulsa, will see fit to right the wrong that she created when she successfully imposed a huge economic burden on the owners of properties inside the IDL when she got the City Council to approve the resolution creating the Baseball Stadium Assessment District.
In 2009, then-Councilor Bill Christiansen explains his decision to vote against the ballpark assessment roll. (Video from Steven Roemerman.) At the same meeting Councilor Rick Westcott, an attorney, explained the legal issues involved. (Here's part 2.) He notes that the old assessment district was proportional to proximity to the Main Mall and Bartlett Square, based on the assumption that the benefit would be greater near these amenities.
Here are excerpts from the plaintiff's motion for summary judgment, which provides more detail about the legal basis for the suit.
There are reports of extensive fire damage to the Rolling Hills Shopping Center, on Admiral Pl west of 193rd East Ave in far east Tulsa.
Assistant Fire Marshal Rick Bruder told reporters that a discount store and a pizza restaurant were likely destroyed as the fire caused their roofs to collapse. Also damaged is a clothing store, an insurance agency and an auto parts store.
It's telling that none of the news reports name the center. There once was an impressive sign at the Admiral Place entrance, but it's been long gone.
When my family moved to Rolling Hills in 1969, the Rolling Hills Shopping Center was the only such place for miles around. (The next nearest shopping center was Wagon Wheel at Admiral and Garnett.) County Assessor records say that it was built in 1968. Here's the lineup, from east to west, as I remember it:
OTASCO (not there in 1969, but built on in the 1970s)
Red Bud Supermarket
Mini-Mall (with barber shop)
T. G. & Y.
Lon's Laundry (around the corner, facing west)
And then the freestanding buildings:
Tastee Freeze (built in 1965, northwest corner)
Roll-In Lounge (east side, facing 193rd)
Phillips 66 (corner of Admiral and 193rd)
There was an MFA insurance agent in there somewhere, too. Roll-In Lounge was a beer joint (B. Y. O. L.). The mini-mall had a space where my sister took tap and ballet lessons. In high school, she worked for Raley's.
Before we had our own washer and dryer, we'd take our laundry to Lon's. The fellow who ran it (Lon, I suppose) was white-headed, tall, and skinny, and he whistled tunes that I didn't recognize. It was hot and steamy, especially in the summer, and there was the smell of soap powder and the taste of a cold bottle of Grapette from the Pepsi machine. I don't recall that it was air conditioned. I can remember sitting in Lon's in a shell-backed metal lawn chair, with a notebook, a 4-color pen, and a road atlas, plotting out an upcoming family vacation, while we waited on the next load to finish.
The T. G. & Y. -- 5¢ to $1.00 -- was where you went for school supplies, fabric, and simple toys. They lasted until not long after Wal-Mart built their first Tulsa store (assessor records say 1972, but that seems too early to me), about 40,000 square feet, less than half the size of a SuperCenter. I recall T. G. & Y. posting defiant "we will not be undersold!" signs. The Wal-Mart building is now some sort of light industrial business. The T. G. & Y. space became a C. R> Anthony store and then (much later) Dollar General.
When OTASCO closed, Red Bud took over the space. At some point, they became Marvin's. Old-timers will remember a stand near the entrance that sold Hillbilly Barbecue sandwiches.
Although the center has been in the City of Tulsa's limits since 1966, it's always been associated with Catoosa, as most of its patrons were in the town of Catoosa or its school district. Rolling Hills east of 193rd was unincorporated back then, but in the Catoosa school district.
It's been sad to see the decline of the center, but it has followed the same downward path as similar centers built in the same era. The presence of the Hard Rock Casino seems to have drawn all the new development to the Catoosa side of I-44 (which is the Tulsa/Catoosa and Tulsa County / Rogers County boundary).